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Study Finds Violent Crimes are Higher in Phoenix’s Low-Income Areas

9September
2019

Many studies point to a high link between low income and violent crime. Research has found violent crimes are higher in Phoenix’s low-income areas.

As well as elevated levels of violent offending, residents of these neighborhoods often suffer from more drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness.

Studies show a link between violent crime and poverty in Arizona
Studies find more violent crime in low-income areas

In a recent report, AZCentral noted higher levels of offenses like killings and violent assaults in the Alhambra village.

Even in 2014 when the homicide rate in Phoenix was down on previous years, the Alhambra village saw a rash of killings. Of 116 homicides that year in Phoenix, 14 occurred in

The Alhambra village. This was the second highest murder rate in all of the villages in the city and double the overall murder rate for Phoenix.

AZCentral noted villages like Alhambra, Central City, and South Mountain also had higher rates of violent crime than the city average.

A link between income and violent crime was also apparent in a 2018 study by 24/7 Wall Street. Tucson, the second largest city in Arizona, was included in a table of the 50 worst cities to live in in the country. The typical household income in Tucson was just over $40,000, the study found.

With a poverty rate of nearly 24 percent, Tucson comes in way above the national average of 14 percent and Arizona’s poverty rate of 16.4 percent, according to the article.

“Crime is also relatively common in Tucson,” the article stated. “There were 799 violent crimes and 5,891 property crimes in the city in 2016 per 100,000 people, more than double the comparable crime rates on a national scale.”

The 24/7 Wall Street article listed Phoenix as the 15th poorest city in the country. The study found nearly 123,000 people in the Phoenix live on or below poverty level incomes in 64 extremely poor neighborhoods, where as much as 40 percent of the population is impoverished. The study stated:

“Americans living in extreme poverty face greater hurdles to economic and social mobility. At Phoenix’s poor neighborhoods, just 8.1 percent of adults have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31.4 percent of adults in the rest of the metro area.”

Crime was concentrated in poor neighborhoods in Phoenix. The study suggested the high concentration of poverty in the largest city in Arizona may be fueling the metro area’s overall violent crime rate. The study pointed to 471 violent crimes for every 100,000 Phoenix residents in 2017, considerably above the national violent crime rate of 383 per 100,000.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration makes a clear link between poverty and mental health. It says poverty may exacerbate the severity of mental health issues.

At the Garcia Law Firm, PLC, attorney Bernardo Garcia has a long and distinguished track record in representing people with mental illnesses who are charged with violent crimes. Please call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Violent Crime | Tagged |

What Are Arizona’s Failure to Stop Laws?

6September
2019

Fleeing the scene of a traffic accident or not stopping for a police officer is a serious offense in Arizona as in other states. Falling foul of Arizona’s failure to stop laws can land you in prison.

Failure to stop is an offense under A.R.S. 28-1595. A driver may be charged with the offense if he or she does not stop after receiving a “visual or audible signal or instruction” from a police officer.

Outlining Arizona's failure to stop laws
Failure to stop in Arizona can land you in jail

When a driver fails to stop, the motorist often ends up involved in a police chase and further charges may follow such as reckless driving.

The law states a driver who refuses to show his or her license to a police officer or an unlicensed driver faces a class 2 misdemeanor.

The evidence is required identity should include the following information:

1 The full name of the driver

2. The driver’s date of birth.

3. The driver’s home address.

4. A brief physical description of the driver, including the driver’s sex, weight, height and eye, and hair color.

5. The driver’s signature.

Drivers who flee a police officer or a highway patrol officer face further problems. This offense is a class 5 felony. The statute is called the “felony flight” law. A motorist who tries to outrun or outmaneuver an officer in an officially marked law enforcement vehicle faces a felony charge.

Some people fail to grasp the consequences of these offenses. You can end up behind bars under Arizona’s failure to stop laws. Under the Arizona criminal sentencing guidelines, a class 2 misdemeanor carries up to of 4 months in jail. A driver who does not stop may also pay up to $750.00 in fines, as well as possible other sanctions.

If you are convicted of a class 5 felony for evading police you will face six months to 2 years in prison terms, fines and court fees. You will also end up with a felony on your record.

There are defenses to this crime. One of the most important ones is where a driver failed to realize he or she was being signaled to stop by a police officer. Of course, if the driver was involved in an accident with injuries or significant property damage, he or she has an obligation to stop and wait for the police.

However, drivers sometimes fail to realize they are being asked to stop by an officer. It may be late at night or they may believe the officer was trying to stop another motorist.

A driver who is accused of felony flight may be unaware he was being pursued. Or the pursuit vehicle might have been unmarked. These are legitimate defenses.

If you have fallen foul of Arizona’s failure to stop laws or been accused of felony flight, please contact our Phoenix criminal defense attorney today.

Posted in Arizona Laws | Tagged |

Serious Crimes Against Children in Arizona

2September
2019

Serious crimes against children carry heavy sentences in Arizona and elsewhere. Not only do prosecutors crack down hard on crimes against young people but juries are unlikely to show much sympathy toward defendants.

People who commit crimes against children often spend long terms in prison. Even when they are released, their reputation is tarnished. They may end up on the sex offender’s register, their family life is often ruined and it can be impossible to land a job.

Serious crimes against children in Arizona
The penalties for serious crimes against children in Arizona

At the Garcia Law Firm, we can represent you if you have been charged with serious crimes against children. Offenses include the following:

1 Child Abuse

A defendant can be charged with child abuse for a wide range of acts under Arizona law. These include:

Physical abuse such as breaking bones, bruises, cuts, and other injuries;

Sexual abuse which includes child pornography, sexual assault, and prostitution;

Abandonment – the failure of a parent to provide adequate support;

Emotional abuse of a child by a caretaker;

Neglect such as locking a child up and failing to provide adequate food and water.

People in a position of responsibility who fail to report child abuse face a class 1 misdemeanor.

According to the Arizona statute ARS § 13.3623, a defendant can be charged with a class 6, 5, 4, 3, or 2 felony conviction, depending on the circumstances related to the alleged child abuse offense.  Class 2 felonies carry up to 12.5 years in prison for a first offense and a fine of up to $150,000.

What is Sexual Exploitation of a Minor?

Sexual exploitation of a minor is a very serious crime in Arizona.

Sexual exploitation of a minor includes filming, recording, duplicating, selling, buying “sexting” or electronically transmitting any visual depiction of a sexual act with a minor. This is a wide offense and people can fall foul of this law without knowing it. In some cases, parents who have taken innocent pictures of their children have been wrongly accused of sexual exploitation. In other cases, people have sent or forwarded images without realizing the material they contained.

If the images feature children under the age of 14, the offense is classified as a dangerous crime against children. Each offense that is classified as a dangerous crime against children carries a minimum of 10 years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 17 years and a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. People convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor in Arizona may spend more time behind bars than people convicted of murder.

Sex Trafficking Against Children in Arizona

Sex trafficking against children in Arizona is treated very seriously. According to the Office of the Attorney General, a first conviction for sex trafficking against children carries a sentence of 10.5 to 13.5 years. The average age for entry into the sex trafficking trade in the state is 14. Sex trafficking often crosses state and international borders and can be dealt with by the federal courts, carrying an even higher sentence.

Crimes against children are grave matters. When people with mental illnesses are charged with this crime, they often struggle to defend themselves. An experienced AZ criminal defense lawyer can help. Please call the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Sex Crimes | Tagged |

What is the M’Naghten Rule – the Basis of Insanity Defenses?

29August
2019

The M’Naghten Rule is the basis of insanity defenses in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was established by the British House of Lords in the mid-19th Century.

The rule is a test of whether the person accused of a crime was sane when the act was committed and criminally responsible for what happened. The rule is named after Daniel M’Naghten, a man who tried to kill the British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten apparently believed that Peel wanted to kill him. He tried to assassinate the Prime Minister but instead shot his private secretary, Edward Drummond dead in 1843.

How the M'Naghten Rule developed in the 19th Century led to the insanity defense
The M’Naghten Rules forms the basis of the insanity defense

Medical experts were brought in for M’Naghten’s murder trial. They testified that he was psychotic. M’Naghten wad found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict caused an outcry from the public who had never heard of an insanity defense.

The House of Lords ordered the courts to draw up a strict definition of criminal insanity that could be used in future criminal trials. The result was the M’Naghten Rule. The justices ruled that insanity was a defense only when if the accused had a defect of reason at the time the crime was committed. The defendant should not have known about the nature of his or her actions and been too deranged to realize they were wrong.

The M’Naghten Rule was first applied by the courts in the United States in the 19th Century, just a few years after the British ruling. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law reported how in 1846, New York State tried William Freeman who was accused of killing several members of the Van Nest family near Auburn, New York. Freeman demonstrated psychotic behavior. He was obsessed with horse theft and false imprisonment. William Seward, his defense lawyer, wanted an insanity verdict and used the M’Naghten Rule argument. Although Freeman was clearly impaired, a jury found him competent to stand trial.

A jury found Freeman guilty of the killings and a judge sentenced him to death. Seward filed a Writ of Error. The New York State Supreme Court reversed Freeman’s conviction and death sentence. The court said the M’Naghten Rule would be the standard in New York.

The M’Naghten rule underpins Arizona’s guilty except insane (GEI) defense. It allows the defendant in a case to show evidence of a serious “mental disease or defect.” Specific conditions can qualify for GEI. The effects of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, impulse control, or psychosexual disorders do not meet the definition of guilty except insane. This is a hard defense to prove. The defendant must suffer from a condition that’s so serious, he or she was unaware that the criminal act was wrong.

If you or a family member has a mental disorder and is facing charges, our law firm can help you. Attorney Bernardo Garcia has assisted clients in these cases for decades. Please call him at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Tips for Helping Your Attorney When a Defendant Has a Mental Illness in Arizona

26August
2019

It’s very important for defendants with a mental illness in Arizona to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Most defendants are unfamiliar with the legal system and need a voice in court. This is especially the case when the accused has a mental disorder. His or her needs are often ignored in the criminal justice system.

Useful information you should disclose to an attorney about a family member with a mental illness
Disclosing medications used by a family member with a mental illness can be useful information for an attorney

Some attorneys like Bernardo Garcia have decades of experience helping clients with psychiatric illnesses. When a defendant has a psychiatric disorder or another health issue it’s important to help an attorney as much as possible to build a watertight defense.

Some tips to help your attorney when a defendant has a mental illness in Arizona include:

1 Disclose all of your medical conditions

Your medical condition may be important in building up a defense. Some people who suffer from mental illnesses don’t want to talk about it. However, you should reveal everything about your condition to your lawyer who is there to help you. He may pick up on something that helps your case.

2 Involve your family

Few things are as stressful as being charged with a crime. This is particularly the case for people with mental illnesses. Family members play a vital supporting role. You should get them involved in the legal process. Family members may be called to give evidence in some cases or provide testimony about the defendant’s mental illness.

3 Make sure you understand the legal process. If you are not clear about the role of your attorney, you may not be competent to stand trial. Family members should check their relative with mental illness understands the charges and the consequences. Your attorney will also do this.

4 Disclose all medications

You should make sure your lawyer is aware of any medications you are taking and inform the legal representative of any problems you may face accusing medication in jail. Family members can also inform the lawyer about his client’s medication.

5 List mitigating factors

Mitigation is important in cases where a mentally ill person faces criminal charges. In some cases, the defendant will plead guilty but the lawyer will present mitigating evidence that can reduce an eventual sentence. It’s important to keep people with psychiatric disorders and other mental health issues out of prison if possible.

6 Be ready to talk about alternatives

There are many mental health defenses and alternatives to incarceration like diversion programs. You should be ready to talk candidly with your attorney about what may work best for you.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia has a long track record of helping people with mental illnesses. He also works very closely with their family members. Call him for a consultation as soon as a loved one is arrested on Phoenix or elsewhere at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Arizona Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Use GPS Tracking Evidence

23August
2019

The communications revolution of the 21st Century has transformed crime investigations. It’s much easier to track people than in previous years because of global positioning systems (GPS). However, the question of whether police need a warrant to obtain this information has occupied many hours in courtrooms.

The Arizona Supreme Court deliberated on this issue in a 2018 case. The case of State v. Jean considered the Fourth Amendment rights of Emilio Jean, a passenger in a truck who was charged with money laundering and transportation of marijuana. Police placed tracking devices on the vehicle and gained evidence through GPS.

Arizona court rules police need a warrant to use tracking evidence
Police need a warrant to use tracking evidence, Arizona court rules

The court concluded Jean was subjected to a warrantless search that violated his reasonable expectation of privacy and thus his Fourth Amendment rights. Although the court highlighted a “good faith exception” in the case because the officer did not think his actions were unlawful, the justices concluded passengers who are traveling in a private vehicle with its owner should have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This is violated by continually tracking the vehicle through a hidden GPS device.

The case is important because it sets limits on what police can legitimately do without a warrant. It follows cases in which the courts ruled police needed a warrant to obtain the evidence on a suspect’s smartphone.

Also in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling that placed limits on the ability of investigators to obtain cellphone data that highlighted the previous location of criminal suspects in what was greeted as a major victory for digital privacy advocates.

A report in Reuters noted the court made a 5-4 ruling. The justices said police generally require a court-approved warrant to obtain data. The decision was important because it created a higher legal hurdle than under previous federal law.

Before the ruling, police routinely obtained data from wireless carriers from cellphone towers. The Supreme Court said this was an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The highest court in the land ruled in favor of Timothy Carpenter. He appealed his conviction for a string of armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Ohio and Michigan. The police used cellphone location data that showed he was close to the crime scenes at the time of the robberies.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the ruling did not affect other privacy issues such as whether police need warrants to get real-time cellphone location information to track suspects.

Police can use GPS to track someone in Arizona with a search warrant for probable cause or the permission of the owner. However, if GPS is used unlawfully a defense attorney can move to strike out the evidence.

Many defendants, particularly those with mental illnesses, are unaware of their rights. Phoenix-based attorney Bernardo Garcia can help you after an arrest. Please call him today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Law Enforcement | Tagged |

Can Dementia Trigger Incompetency to Stand Trial in Arizona?

21August
2019

The recent case of an Arizona man with Alzheimer’s who said he robbed a credit union because he could not afford to live on his social security check, raises questions of whether dementia can trigger incompetency to stand trial in Arizona.

A report in Tucson.com noted Robert Francis Krebs told FBI agents that he didn’t even put on a disguise during the robbery in 2018 because he wanted to get caught and to go back to prison.

Dementia and incompetency to stand trial in Arizona
Dementia can leave a defendant incompetent to stand trial

A court hearing in June considered whether Krebs, 82, was mentally fit to stand trial.

His attorneys told a judge Krebs reported having symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. A neuropsychologist concluded he was not competent to stand trial for robbery because he was suffering from dementia.

Two other mental health experts disagreed with the assessment. Tucson.com reported one of them said Krebs exaggerated his degenerative condition to avoid prosecution. The report noted a judge faces deciding if Krebs should be assessed to find out if his condition improves. If he cannot be restored to competency the robbery charge might be dismissed.

Krebs has previously served 30 years in prison for a bank robbery committed in Florida in the 1980s.

Prosecutors in the case argue Krebs is competent to stand trial. They urged a judge to find him competent, saying he told FBI agents he carried out the Tucson robbery because he was not able to live on $800 a month in Social Security benefits.

Competency to stand trial depends on whether a defendant is able to understand the proceedings being brought and give effective advice to his attorney. Conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia can trigger incompetency to stand trial in Arizona.

You can find out more about the competency rule, also known as Rule 11 on our website. As soon as a defendant has been charged with an offense in Arizona, any party to the case can file a motion with the court seeking a competency determination on the defendant. This includes the court itself.

The court will consider all evidence and seek expert input on the competency of the defendant. If you or a family member fails to grasp what is going on during a legal proceeding, you should not be convicted or sentenced to a crime. Please call Garcia Law PLC for more advice and help at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Rule 11 | Tagged |

Arizona Governor Vetoes Prison Reform Bill for First Time Offenders

16August
2019

Arizona has one of the most controversial sentencing policies in the nation. First-time offenders can receive multiple sentences for “repetitive offenses” that occurred within minutes of each other.

The law led to a groundswell for change and across the aisle support for a bill. However, in June, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1334, a measure that would have reformed the sentencing for time offenders in Arizona under the repeat offender law.

Arizona Governor vetoes a prison refom bill
A prison reform bill was vetoed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

The bill attracted strong bipartisan support passing the Arizona House with 49 in favor and no opposition reported News Channel 13.

It was also received favorably in the Senate where it passed 27 in favor to three against.

Ducey said he vetoed the bill because it had  “unintended consequences.” He did not elaborate.

Joe Watson, who spent a decade in prison as a first-time offender, supported the reform. His case highlights the harshness of Arizona’s approach to first-time offenders.

Watson said he faced a potential 214 years in prison as a first-time offender. In Arizona, charges can be stacked for first-time offenders.

He received a sentence of 12 years because he argued his case before a judge instead of settling for a plea deal that would have left him spending at least a quarter of a century incarcerated.

Watson served 10 years even though nobody was harmed and no weapon was used in his offense. He claimed Arizona’s approach to first-time offenders means many people with mental health and drug addiction problems end up incarcerated. He said:

“Like me, the overwhelming majority of people incarcerated committed their offenses because of addiction,” he said. “That’s what we have to treat, behavioral issues, mental health issues.”

He said Arizona doesn’t have a program inside the prison walls to deal with those issues and so the numbers rise along with the price tag.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, the state has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the country. Almost 42,000 people languish in our prisons.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney Bernardo Garcia is committed to fighting for the rights of defendants who suffer from mental illnesses. We are well aware of the harsh treatment of first-time offenders and will do everything in our power to keep you out of prison. Please contact us today for a consultation.

Posted in Arizona Laws |

Sleep Deprivation in College Kids Fuels Mental Health Episodes

15August
2019

College students often lose out on sleep. They habitually work late cramming for examinations, or party and lead hectic lives. A new study points out sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on mental health.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney helps people when they get into trouble with the law. He often helps people with mental health disorders. We know how hectic lifestyles and lack of sleep can fuel mental health problems and result in criminality.

Sleep deprivation and mental health
Sleep deprivation impacts mental health

Colleges, whether in Phoenix or elsewhere, can be stressful places. There’s a lot of pressure on students to perform well academically and many are away from home for the first time. Insomnia fuels their problems.

A number of recent studies point to the detrimental effect of a lack of sleep in college students including mental illnesses. Sleep deprivation, according to Harvard Health, affects your psychological state and your mental health. It’s a vicious cycle because people who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to struggle with sleep disorders.

America as a whole suffers from sleep deprivation. Many people have stressful jobs and we work long hours. People with psychiatric disorders are more likely to feel tired and down. Harvard Health stated as many as 50 to 80 percent of people with mental illnesses suffer from sleeping disorders. Insomnia is particularly common in people with depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While sleep disorders are typically viewed as symptoms rather than the cause of psychological problems, studies suggest a lack of sleep may cause psychological problems. College students are a high-risk group.

Why Sleep Deprivation May Impact Mental Health

The research is important. It indicates treating an underlying sleeping disorder may help alleviate the symptoms of a mental health problem.

Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper experiences “quiet” or deep sleep. The muscles relax, the body temperature falls, the heart rate drops, and breathing slows down. The deeper phase of sleep causes physiological changes that boost immune system functioning.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the other category of sleep when people dream. It entails an increase in body temperature, blood temperature, and other indicators. Studies suggest REM sleep improves learning and memory and is beneficial for emotional health.

Although scientists are still working on the methodology, they have found disruption to sleep causes havoc in the brain, impairs emotions, and stops people from thinking rationally. Insomnia can exacerbate mental disorders.

When people with mental illnesses end up in the Arizona courts, they often have chaotic lives and little sleep. Our attorney at the Garcia Lw Firm will talk to you and your family members about these issues. Underlying stresses that cause lack of sleep may be important in the courtroom when arguments are made for a lesser sentence, known as sentencing mitigation.

Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today if you or a family member with a mental illness has been arrested.

Posted in Mental Health |

Health Rankings Point to an Increase in Adults Experiencing Mental Health Distress in Arizona

12August
2019

Suffering from a mental health disorder is a major challenge in Arizona. Not only are the courts often unsympathetic to people with mental illness but the state has a serious lack of providers.

According to America’s Health Rankings, Arizona ranks 47th in the nation in terms of access to mental healthcare for its population.

more adults experience mental health distress in Arizona
Arizona sees an increase in people with mental health challenges

The Healthcare provider BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona points out the level of providers remains low even though the number of adults who suffer from frequent mental distress in Arizona jumped by 5 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is addressing the issue through its Mobilize AZ initiative. It provided $560,000 in funding to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ (ADHS) State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). 

The SLRP is intended to help enlist and keep healthcare officials, including mental health specialists in rural areas that lack qualified mental health professionals.

The program repays the educational loans of healthcare providers on condition they remain in areas that suffer from a shortage of medical professionals.

America’s Health Ranking findings are in line with previous research that highlighted Arizona’s dismal levels of mental healthcare provision.

In 2015, Mental Health America found Arizona was the second-worst state in the country for addressing mental health issues. The Phoenix New Times analyzed the frequency of mental illness in every state and the District of Columbia.

The nonprofit looked at adult and children. It considered the numbers of people with diagnosed mental health conditions, serious thoughts of suicide, and substance-abuse issues.

It assessed the number of adults and children who suffer from mental illnesses but were not receiving treatment and had no access to a doctor or a medical health professional.

The study revealed a huge unmet need in Arizona. Only Oregon had poorer levels of access to mental health services.

In 2014, Arizona stepped up its levels of help for people with acute problems such as severe depression and schizophrenia.

However, the state was found to be failing people with moderate mental illness and failing to intervene before it became acute and they lost their jobs, families, or ended up in trouble with the law.

The study found not enough primary-care physicians are screening patients for mental illness until the disease has progressed and caused serious problems.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have a long track record of representing mentally ill people in the courts. We know the challenges mentally ill people and their families face and the lack of support networks. Please call attorney Bernardo Garcia today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |